Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Cost of Conflict and benefit of collaboration

Most people don't understand a collaboration model. They think that negotiation means that you make people do things by threatening to walk out, having other alternatives or otherwise pressuring them. While this can work for the short term, it causes resentment and retaliation and does not get the other side to give you its best ideas.

Even those people who think one should focus on people's "interests" and "rationality" miss the point: the world is emotional and irrational, especially in negotiations important to people. To deal with an emotional person one needs to value their emotions and talk them gradually off the ledge, not show them how your spreadsheets align.

There have been so many missed opportunities: in Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, with Israel/Palestine, with children, even in buying or selling homes, where one party wanted to talk but the other would not.

Firstly, the road from perdition begins, simply, with an attitude. The other side is not necessarily the enemy, even if they work for a competitor and even if others from their group might be the enemy.

Just because they were born Muslim doesn't mean they like Al Qaeda. Just because they are female doesn't mean they want children.

Using "averages" to judge people is unfair. How would you like to be judged based on an average?

Second, to get more one has to find out the other party's perceptions, ask questions, make a connection. People who make human connections with others are six times more likely to persuade others to do what they want.

Third, studies show that differences add value: they provide the basis for more creativity. Work groups with perceptual differences create three times as much value as consensus groups.

So, instead of debating over differences to see who's right, lawmakers and executives alike should be trying to see how they can create better ideas from those differences. For example, trading things that the parties each value unequally.

Fourth, threatening, insulting people and walking out just gets them angry and less interested in a deal. It might feel good, but in terms of meeting goals, it just doesn't work.

Fifth, emotion takes focus off goals and greatly reduces the chance of deals. If you are emotional, get someone else to negotiate, take a break or don't take it personally. If they are emotional, value their emotions to calm them down.

Sixth, start with the easy things on which there is agreement, even the date of the next meeting. It will bind parties together more.

Seventh, progress incrementally, small steps at a time, particularly when there are big disagreements. Parties get nervous making big steps in a risky world.

You don't have to trust everyone from the outset, but where there is conflict, simply acknowledge there isn't much trust and try to get commitments from each other in the absence of trust.

Build trust slowly through personal contact and you don't have to disclose your bottom line; simply say that it makes you uncomfortable. To be collaborative, you don't have to be fully disclosing. But you do need to say what's going on and actually try to form an agreement, piece by piece.

People don't expect you to disclose everything. But they do expect you to be direct, honest and real. That's the essence of collaboration. So before we tear ourselves apart, maybe we can be civil and have a talk?

Read the fill article here: The Cost of Conflict | Psychology Today

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